The standings of the American Hockey League’s Central Division look a bit different than they did a week ago. While the top team remains in place, the rest of the division has bunched up quite a bit. Some of the teams near the top struggled through the week, while a couple of teams at the bottom of the ladder began to make the climb upwards.
Wild Take Five Out of Six Points
The Iowa Wild (7-1-2-1) picked up five out of a possible six points last week, but they have to feel disappointed that it wasn’t six out of six. Regardless of how the week ended, the Wild still sits atop the Central Division with 17 points in 11 games.
The Wild continued their road trip in Grand Rapids on Wednesday night where they beat the Griffins 4-3 in overtime. The win capped off the team’s most successful month of October in franchise history.
The Wild found themselves trailing 2-0 about seven minutes into the second period when they started to mount a comeback. Gabriel Dumont got the Wild on the board with the team’s first shorthanded goal of the season. Less than four minutes later, Gerry Mayhew tied the game with a wraparound goal. It had appeared that J.T. Brown had given Iowa a lead before the end of the stanza, but the goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference.
Early in the third period, Dumont put the Wild up 3-2 with a power-play tally. The Griffins forced overtime with a goal late in regulation. In overtime, Mayhew forced a turnover and ended the game with the one and only shot for either team in the extra frame.
The Wild started the month of November with a 1-0 win at the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday night. It was their first trip to the Panther Arena since they ended the Admirals’ season their last April in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
Mayhew continued to make the AHL his personal playground with his sixth goal of the season early in the third period. That would be all Kaapo Kahkonen needed as he turned away all 33 shots he faced. He set franchise records with his sixth consecutive win and seventh career shutout.
Their week concluded with a trip to Rockford on Saturday night. It appeared that it was Mat Robson’s turn for a shutout, but the IceHogs stormed back late for a 3-2 overtime win.
Things got off on the right foot as Kyle Rau finished off a beautiful passing play to give the Wild a 1-0 lead on a first-period power play. Colton Beck scored a second power-play goal to double the lead late in the middle frame. The breakaway goal was his first of the season.
The IceHogs had a furious comeback late in the game as they scored a pair of goals with their goaltender pulled, just 28 seconds apart. They completed the comeback in overtime, sending the Wild home with just one point.
The loss completed their seven-game road trip and the Wild will now have seven of their next eight games on home ice.
Player of the Week: Mayhew led the way with three goals and an assist, but defenseman Brennan Menell picked up four assists on the week. He is now tied with Mayhew for the overall lead in team scoring with 10 points. He leads the Wild with nine assists, which is tied with Alex Petrovic of the Providence Bruins for the most among all AHL defensemen.
The Week Ahead: Thursday, Nov. 7 vs Chicago Wolves; Saturday, Nov. 9 vs Ontario Reign; Sunday, Nov. 10 vs Reign
Rampage Take Care of Business Versus In-State Rival
The San Antonio Rampage (6-2-2-1) rebounded nicely after losing their first game of the week to grab four points. They currently sit all alone in second place with 15 points.
The week began with their first meeting against the IceHogs, in Rockford, on Wednesday night. The struggling IceHogs exploded offensively in a 6-2 win over the Rampage. A pair of Nolans combined for the first goal of the game in the opening frame as Jordan Nolan redirected a Nolan Stevens shot for his first goal of the season.
The IceHogs responded with three goals in less than three minutes. Derrick Pouliot’s second goal of the season cut the Rockford lead down to 3-2 lead in the second period, however, the IceHogs scored three more times during the third period to win going away.
The Rampage finished off their six-game road trip with a 4-2 victory at the Texas Stars on Friday. It was their third straight win at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, dating back to last season.
Trailing 1-0 early in the second period, Mike Vecchione scored his third goal in the last three games to even things up. The game remained even until the third period when Jake Walman’s first goal of the season gave the Rampage their first lead of the night. Austin Pognakski doubled the lead just 43 seconds later with his first goal as well.
The Stars got to within one goal with over six minutes left to play, but Alexey Toropchenko was the third player to strike for the first time this season with a late empty-net goal. Goaltender Adam Wilcox made 22 saves for his first win in a Rampage uniform.
The Rampage returned home on Saturday night for a rematch against the Stars where the beat up on their rival, 8-2. The Los Chimuelos de San Antonio celebrated All Souls’ Day with special uniforms and a blowout victory.
The Stars opened the scoring three minutes into the game, but it was all Rampage from that point on. Poganski evened things up midway through the first period with a one-timer from the left circle. Less than three minutes later, Nathan Walker’s eighth goal of the season gave the Rampage a 2-1 lead. Klim Kostin doubled the lead with a power-play goal in the final minute of the opening frame.
Texas reduced to lead to 3-2, midway through the second period, but that would be as close as they would get. Just over a minute later, defenseman Cam Darcy cashed in off a rebound for his first goal with the Rampage. Vecchione made it 5-2 in the final minute of the second period.
Vecchione struck again four minutes into the third period for his second multi-goal game in his last four contests. Jake Dotchin and Tanner Kaspick each added goals before the final horn sounded. The Rampage is now 4-0-2 on the season when they give up the first goal of the game.
“Tonight the game opened up for us, obviously,” head coach Drew Bannister said after the win. “I thought last night we played a real good road game. Tonight was, at times, a little bit sloppy. We got ourselves into a little bit of penalty trouble in the second and it took us out of the flow of the game. But I liked the way we played in the third. I thought we were pretty smart. As the ice got worse, we kept things simple and our guys got rewarded.”
Player of the Week: The Rampage had plenty of candidates this week with 18 different players finding the score sheet over their three games. Poganski led the way with five points thanks to his two goals and three assists. He has two goals and eight points in his last seven games and is currently tied for second on the team with seven assists.
The Week Ahead: Friday, Nov. 8 vs Admirals; Sunday, Nov. 10 vs Admirals
Admirals’ Goaltending Continues to Lead the Way
The Admirals (5-3-1-2) won two out of their three games on home ice last week. They currently have 13 points and hold the tiebreaker for third place because they have a higher points percentage on the season.
The busy week started with a 6-2 victory over the Stars on Tuesday night and it was the second win over Texas in the past four days. The offense found its groove without the services of Colin Blackwell, who was recalled by the Nashville Predators earlier that morning.
After a scoreless first period, Laurent Dauphin opened the scoring early in the second with his third goal of the season. Mathieu Olivier quickly followed up with another goal to give the Admirals a 2-0 lead before the period was even five minutes old. The Stars would draw even with a goal late in the middle frame and a second one early in the third period.
The Admirals answered with three goals in less than five minutes to take control. Anthony Richard’s second goal of the season broke the tie less than two minutes after the Stars knotted the score. 2019 AHL MVP Daniel Carr scored his first goal with the Admirals shortly thereafter. Frederick Gaudreau ended the onslaught about two minutes later. Tanner Jeannot scored the sixth and final Admirals goal late in the game, his first of the season. Goaltender Connor Ingram made 40 saves in the win.
The Admirals welcomed the first-place Wild to town on Friday night. Despite a great 29-save performance out of goaltender Troy Grosenick, they lost 1-0. Dauphin was awarded a penalty shot late in the second period, but he could not convert.
The offense clicked into high gear on Saturday night in a 5-2 victory of the Wolves. Jeannot scored his second straight goal for the Admirals, just 1:59 into the game, which caused over 1,500 teddy bears to make their way onto the ice to be donated to local charities.
Carr scored his second goal of the week, while on the power play, to double the lead over his former team. Cole Schneider, playing in his 500th career AHL, extended the lead to 3-0 with another power-play tally, forcing the Wolves to make a goaltending change just 12 minutes into the game. The Wolves got one of those goals back before the first period ended.
In the second period, Anthony Richard increased the lead with a redirection of a Fred Allard shot. The Wolves scored a power-play goal late in the third period before Blackwell, who was back from his trip to Nashville, sealed the deal with an empty netter.
“I think we started the game the right way, we started on time,” head coach Karl Taylor said after the game. “What a great goal by Tanner, getting rewarded early. We were a little desperate to score after having the shutout last night. We were happy to get one early and get our confidence back.”
Player of the Week: Dauphine led the team with four points last week, but we are going to give the nod to Ingram, who won both of his starts. He gave up just four goals on 78 shots for a .948 save percentage (SV%). Ingram and Grosenick have each played in six games this season and have combined for a 2.13 goals-against average (GAA) and .935 SV%.
The Week Ahead: Wednesday, Nov. 6 vs Manitoba Moose; Friday, Nov. 8 @ Rampage; Sunday, Nov. 10 @ Rampage
Wolves Stumble Over the Weekend
The Wolves (6-5-1-0) had a very busy week with four games on the road. They started off hot with two wins before dropping their games over the weekend. They currently sit in the fourth and final playoff spot with 13 points.
Before the Wolves headed out on their longest road trip of the season, five games, they had two of their key members from last year’s run the Calder Cup Finals return from Vegas. Defensemen Jake Bischoff and Nic Hague were both reassigned by the Golden Knights, along with goaltender Garret Sparks.
Their two-game series with the Tucson Roadrunners featured two of the hottest teams in the AHL, with the Roadrunners on a five-game winning streak and the Wolves with three victories in a row. Special teams were the difference Tuesday night’s contest.
Dylan Coghlan broke a scoreless tie, while on a late first-period 5-on-3 power play, by blasting home a one-timer from the top of the right circle. The Roadrunners tied the game with a power-play tally of their own early in the middle frame. The goal ended the Wolves streak of 21 straight penalties killed.
Reid Duke scored the eventual game-winning goal late in the second period while on another penalty kill. The goal was his first of the season and Chicago’s first shorthanded goal as well. From there, Oscar Dansk did the rest; making 29 saves to pick up his second straight victory.
Sparks got the nod in goal in Wednesday’s rematch and he stopped all 32 shots he faced for his first shutout in a Wolves uniform.
Lucas Elvenes scored the only goal the Wolves would need, on the power play, with just 12 seconds left in the second period. They added a pair of empty-net goals, late in the game, by Duke and Tye McGinn to complete the scoring.
On Friday morning, Elvenes was named the CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month for October. The 20-year-old Swedish-born forward’s first month in North America included four goals and an AHL-high 11 assists and 15 points in 10 games.
The Wolves had their five-game winning streak snapped with a bit of a clunker at the Admirals on Friday night. Dansk and the Wolves gave up three goals, including two on the power play, just over 12 minutes into the game. Head coach Rocky Thompson pulled Dansk after the third goal and replaced him with Dylan Ferguson, who beat the Admirals in his first professional start last month.
Shortly after the goalie change, Tyrell Goulbourne scored his first goal with the Wolves, from the left circle, to cut the deficit to 3-1. Quinney scored on a late third-period power play, shortly after the Admirals took a 4-1 lead. Elvenes picked up an assist to extend his personal points streak to nine consecutive games. The Admirals finished off their 5-2 win with an empty-net tally.
The Wolves closed out the week in disappointing fashion at the IceHogs on Sunday afternoon. Zach Whitecloud broke the scoreless tie with a power-play goal, his first, midway through the first period. Three and half minutes later, Elvenes showed off his stickhandling skills to create space in the slot before firing a backhand shot into the net for his fifth goal of the season.
Elvenes picked up an assist on defenseman Jimmy Schuldt’s first goal with the Wolves, early in the second period, to give the Wolves a 3-0 lead. Shortly after the IceHogs scored on the power-play, Duke scored his third goal of the week to restore the Wolves’ three-goal lead. The IceHogs answered just over a minute later to make it a 4-2 game at the second intermission.
The third period turned into a nightmare for the Wolves as the IceHogs scored five goals over the final nine minutes of the game to pull off the 7-4 victory.
Player of the Week: Elvenes continues to impress, but this week we are giving the honors to Duke. The first-ever Golden Knight entered the week with just one assist on the season. He scored in each of the games in Tucson before adding another goal and an assist in Rockford. He led all Wolves players with three goals last week.
The Week Ahead: Thursday, Nov.7 @ Wild; Saturday, Nov. 9 vs Moose; Sunday, Nov. 10 vs IceHogs
Griffins Suffer Huge Loss Off the Ice
The Griffins (5-4-1-1) entered the week on a three-game winning streak and sitting in second place in the Central standings. They now find themselves down in fifth place, with 12 points, after earning just a single point in their three games.
The disappointing week began by hosting the Wild where they were able to earn a point in a 4-3 overtime loss. Filip Zadina opened the scoring in the game’s opening minutes by redirecting a Dominic Turgeon shot for his second goal of the season.
Rookie Gregor MacLeod doubled the lead, midway through the second period, with his second goal in as many games. The Wild responded with their first goal just 41 seconds later and tied the game just a couple of minutes after that.
The Griffins found themselves down 3-2 after giving up a power-play goal about seven minutes into the third period. Joe Veleno’s second goal of his rookie season, late in regulation, eventually sent the game to overtime. The Wild took the extra point with a goal just 33 seconds into the overtime session.
“We banked a few points, which is great, but I think we deserved a better fate tonight,” head coach Ben Simon said after the loss. “I thought we owned the first period. I thought we had a lot going on and we let them back into the game with a power-play goal against and gave them a little bit of life.”
The team headed north to Winnipeg for a weekend series with the Moose when tragedy struck. The Griffins announced on Friday that video coach Bill LeRoy passed away. LeRoy had been on the Griffins’ coaching staff since 2001. He is survived by his two children. All of us at The Hockey Writers wish to pass along our deepest condolences to the LeRoy family and Griffins organization.
The Griffins took the ice the following afternoon with heavy hearts and dropped a 5-3 decision to the Moose. Chris Terry started the scoring with a power-play goal just over four minutes into the game. The Moose responded with a game-tying marker less than two minutes later. Matt Puempel’s team-high sixth goal of the season gave the Griffins a 2-1 midway through the opening stanza, but the Moose had another quick answer.
After four goals on 26 combined shots, the two teams settled in for a much calmer second period, with the Moose scoring the only goal of the frame. The home team increased their lead to 4-2 in the opening minutes of the third period.
Zadina cut the lead to 4-3, while on the power play, with over 12 minutes left to play. The Griffins dominated the play for much of the remainder of the game, but could not score the equalizer. The Moose added an empty-netter in the final seconds to complete the scoring.
The defense was an issue for the Griffins in Sunday’s rematch, which they lost 7-4. The seven goals surrendered were a season-high and it was the first time the Griffins had dropped back-to-back games in regulation.
The Griffins found themselves down 2-0 eight minutes into the contest but got on the scoreboard just before the first intermission. Ryan Kuffner fired home a backhand shot for his fourth goal of the season.
The Moose extended their lead to 4-1 with a pair of early second-period goals. The Griffins got some momentum late in the middle frame with goals from Matthew Ford and Terry less than a minute apart to cut the deficit to one goal heading into the third period.
Terry brought the Griffins all the way back to tie the game a 4-4, with a power-play goal, five and a half minutes into the final frame. However, the Griffins had problems staying out of the penalty box for the remainder of the game. The Moose scored on one of their power-play chances before adding a pair of empty-net tallies to ice the game.
Player of the Week: Offense was not an issue for the Griffins last week as they scored 10 goals in their three games. Terry factored in seven of them with three goals and four assists. He leads the team with seven goals, 11 points and 18 points. He is tied with Elvenes of the Wolves for the AHL points lead.
The Week Ahead: Wednesday, Nov. 6 vs Cleveland Monsters; Friday, Nov. 8 vs Toronto Marlies; Saturday, Nov. 9 vs Marlies
IceHogs Starting to Put it All Together
The IceHogs (5-5-0-0) mastered the art of the comeback in order to sweep their three games last week. It was a huge response after being embarrassed in Cleveland the previous weekend, getting outscored 12-1 in two losses to the Monsters. They are in sixth place with 10 points on the season and trending in the right direction.
Returning to home ice on Wednesday night, the IceHogs got the first goal of the season from five different players, including a trio of first-career AHL goals, to blowout the Rampage 6-2. San Antonio struck first, but the IceHogs answered with five straight goals to take control of the game.
Tyler Sikura tied the game by putting home his own rebound midway through the first period. Just over two minutes later, Nick Moutrey’s first goal of the season gave the IceHogs a 2-1 lead. MacKenzie Entwistle increased the lead to 3-1 with his first professional goal on the very next shift.
Reese Johnson’s first AHL tally put the IceHogs up 4-1 midway through the second period. Five minutes later, Adam Boqvist scored the team’s first power-play goal of the season. The IceHogs were 0-for-29 on the power play up to that point and were the last team in the AHL to score on the man-advantage.
The Rampage got one of those goals back early in the third period, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Jacob Nilsson’s shorthanded, empty-net goal finished off the scoring late in the game. Goaltender Kevin Lankinen returned from injury and made 28 saves in his first start since opening night.
The IceHogs’ week continued on Friday night when the first-place Wild came calling. They would be without two key players as Dylan Sikura was suspended due to a high-sticking incident versus the Rampage and Boqvist was recalled by the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Wild built up a 2-0 lead with goals in both of the first two periods. It seemed like that would be all they needed for the win, but the IceHogs stormed back to stun their visitors from the west. With Lankinen on the bench for an extra attacker, defenseman Lucas Carlsson blasted home a one-timer from the left point with just 2:30 left in regulation. Just 28 seconds later, Carlsson fired off another shot from the same spot on the ice and Tyler Sikura redirected into the net to even things up.
In overtime, Matthew Highmore and Nicolas Beaudin entered the zone on a 2-on-1 where Highmore elected not to pass and scored the game-winning goal with a wrist shot to the glove side.
The IceHogs needed another late-game comeback to beat the Wolves on Sunday afternoon and used a third-period offensive eruption to win 7-4. The Wolves built up a 3-0, six minutes into the second period before Nilsson got the IceHogs on the board with a power-play tally. The Wolves answered quickly after the Nilsson goal, but Entwistle cut into the lead just a minute later with his second goal of the week.
The Wolves held onto their 4-2 lead for the first half of the final period, but then Dylan Sikura led a furious comeback. He scored his first goal of the afternoon, at 10:41, with a slap shot from the left point while on the power play. Brandon Hagel’s first AHL goal tied the game just over a minute later.
Sikura’s second goal, the eventual game-winner, came 91 seconds later. He finished off his first career AHL hat trick just over three minutes later, capping off a four-goal outburst in 5:59 of play. Reese Johnson added a shorthanded, empty-net goal in the final minute of play to finalize the score.
“It’s the confidence thing,” head coach Derek King said about his team’s big week. “Some young guys getting their first goals, getting some points and now they are starting to feel good about themselves. They’re so used to always being the better players in juniors or college and when you come to this league – this is a pretty good hockey league- it is nice to see them get their points and gain some confidence.”
Player of the Week: Sikura had his huge four-point game on Wednesday, but it was Highmore who led the way with five points. He had four assists to go with his overtime goal, which was his 10th career goal versus the Wild in 12 games.
“Honestly, I don’t know, I guess you have those teams you like playing again,” he said about his success against Iowa. “But this was just a great team win for us. It’s not necessarily about that goal, it’s the way that we played and the way that we battled. If we do that, good things are around the corner for us.”
The Week Ahead: Wednesday, Nov. 6 vs Marlies; Friday, Nov. 8 vs Moose; Sunday, Nov. 10 @ Wolves
Stars Need to Figure Out Their Defense
The Stars (3-7-0-2) endured a rough week, losing all three of their contests. They were outscored 18-6 and have fallen to seventh place with eight points on the season.
They concluded their four-game road trip with a 6-2 loss at the Admirals on Tuesday night. The game was much closer than the final score suggests as the game was tied 2-2 in the third period before the home team pulled away.
After falling behind 2-0 early in the second period, the Stars fought their way back with a power-play goal from defenseman Emil Djuse. Joel L’Esperance tied the game early in the third period, just moments after the Stars killed off a penalty. However, the Admirals reclaimed the lead just two minutes later and added three more goals to win going away.
The Stars returned home on Friday night, but their in-state rivals, the Rampage, did not give them a very warm welcome in a 4-2 defeat. For the second straight game, the opening tally wasn’t scored until the second period. This time it was Diego Cuglietta’s first goal of the season that gave the Stars a 1-0 lead. The Rampage had a quick response and drew even less than two minutes later.
Michael Mersch looked like he put the Stars up 2-1 early in the final frame, but the goal was waved off due to goaltender interference. The Rampage scored the next two goals to grab a 3-1 lead. Rhett Gardner cut the lead to one, after another lengthy goal review, with just over six minutes to play. The Stars were unable to tie the game and the Rampage added an empty-net goal for some late insurance.
“There were some areas in the game where we shot ourselves in the foot,” head coach Derek Laxdal explained after the loss. “I thought we had a really good first period; I liked our energy. Then, the second period we took too many penalties. If you look at the scoring chances, in general, we didn’t generate enough at 5v5 in the second and third periods. That’s the area we have to get a little bit better in.”
The two teams made the 100-mile trip to San Antonio for a rematch on Saturday night. Things started off well with John Nyberg giving the Stars a 1-0 just three minutes after the puck dropped. The Rampage answered with three straight goals to take a 3-1 advantage into the first intermission.
Midway through the second period, Nicolas Caamano, who was just reassigned by the Dallas Stars earlier in the day, got Texas to within one with a power-play goal. That would be as close as the Stars would get as the Rampage scored two more times in the middle frame before adding three more goals in the third period for the 8-2 victory.
Player of the Week: For the second straight week, Gardner takes home this honor. He factored in half of the Stars’ six goals last week with a goal and two assists. His three goals on the season have him tied with four other players for the team lead despite playing in only six AHL games after spending some time in Dallas.
The Week Ahead: Saturday, Nov. 9 vs Colorado Eagles; Monday, Nov. 11 @ Moose
Offensive Surge Helps Moose in Weekend Sweep
The Moose (3-7-0-0) entered the week with just one victory in eight games and were one of the lowest-scoring teams in the entire AHL. They exploded for 12 goals in a pair of victories over the Griffins. While they are still in eighth place with just six points, the Moose are hoping to build off the successful weekend to get back into the playoff race.
Before they took to the ice on Saturday, the Moose had a handful of roster changes to deal with. First, Logan Shaw was recalled by the Winnipeg Jets on Monday. Defenseman Ville Heinola was reassigned to the AHL on Thursday just before forward C.J. Seuss was recalled on Friday. The team also signed forwards Brent Pedersen and Nathan Todd to professional tryouts (PTO) to fill out their roster.
With all the front office moves completed, the Moose welcomed in the Griffins for a two-game set. Jansen Harkins started his huge game by assisting on Sami Niku’s first goal of the season, which tied the game just over a minute after the Griffins took a 1-0 lead. The Moose had another quick response after the Griffins took a 2-1 lead, this time it was Seth Griffith with the assist from Harkins.
J.C Lipon, playing in his 400th career AHL game, scored a pair of goals, one late in the second period and another early in the third, to give the Moose a 4-2 lead. Harkins had the secondary assist on both goals. The Griffins pulled within one goal shortly thereafter, but Griffith iced the game with a very late empty netter, the 100th of his AHL career. Harkins picked up his fifth assist on the play, tying a franchise record for the most assists in one game.
Harkins and the Moose picked up right where they left off on Sunday afternoon with a 7-4 win over the Griffins. Griffith scored the first of his three goals about five minutes into the game. He had an assist on Cameron Schilling’s goal less than three minutes later. The Griffins got one of those goals back before the end of the first period.
Harkins and Griffith scored less than four minutes apart, early in the second period, to give the Moose a 4-1 lead. However, the visitors mounted a ferocious comeback, scoring two quick goals before the second break and tying the game early in the third period.
Schilling’s second goal of the afternoon broke the tie with less than seven minutes to play. Niku and Griffith both added empty-net goals to finish off the scoring.
Player of the Week: The Moose had plenty of candidates this week with Schilling scoring twice, Griffith putting up five goals being among them. Harkins entered the week with just two goals and an assist and then he exploded for an eight-point weekend. His goal and seven assists were good enough to be named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week.
The Week Ahead: Wednesday, Nov. 6 @ Admirals; Friday, Nov. 8 @ Rockford; Saturday, Nov. 9 @ Wolves